Reader Comments: A ‘public’ hearing? Not really
The San Joaquin County Local Area Formation Commission started their “public” hearing on South San Joaquin Irrigation District’s retail power plan with more than an hour of droning commentary from executive director Jim Glaser.
Last I checked, Glasser is a staffer, whose salary is paid by taxpayers. He spent the majority of his time singing the praises of PG&E and reviewing old material that the commissioners have already heard. The meeting started at 9 a.m., and the public – many of whom had taken the day off work to attend – were not allowed to speak until after 4 p.m. Outrageous. By the time the process is finished, the bureaucrats will have taken almost two full days of listening to themselves talk. “Public” hearing, really?
STOCKTON – The arguments were the same.
Those making the arguments were the same.
And with the exception of fresh-faced young Ripon Councilman Jake Parks who was stepping in for a community titan that was instrumental in helping to push the South San Joaquin Irrigation District issue to a final vote before the Local Agency Formation Commission, those listening to the arguments were the same.
But for the first time in nearly a decade, a sense of electricity surged among the crowd that swelled the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors’ Chambers to near capacity by the end of Wednesday afternoon. It was because of the possibility of a vote that will determine whether the local water district can enter the retail power business and take over PG&E’s existing distribution network servicing 60,000 customers in Manteca, Ripon and Escalon lingered in the air.
As day one of what was originally scheduled as a three-day meeting kicked off, even the impartial ones – LAFCo Executive Director James Glaser – got mired down in the sticky stuff that has turned arguably one of the hottest conversation topics around town into political quicksand because of its divisive and bitter nature.
In his report to the commission, Glaser said that one of the experts that was commissioned to perform a feasibility study – PA Consulting – found that it could end up costing SSJID upwards of $628 million to formally take over operations once all of the dust settles. The negotiated buy-out fee, he said, would only be a portion of the total costs and when he kept hearing of the district’s financial solubility to handle such a heavy burden – even one a fraction of that number – he “didn’t buy it.”
The ordeal, which has ended up costing SSJID millions for duplicate reports mandated by LAFCo while the process was once again working its way through the system, is expected to come to a crossroads by the end of the week when the five voting members decide whether to accept the documents that the district has submitted which will include the final environmental impact report and municipal service review. The commission is also expected to decide on whether to annex an 80-acre island into the district and whether to approve its application to provide new retail power service.
Nearly all of the speakers on Wednesday were consultants directly working on the project for LAFCo, SSJID or PG&E. Public comments, despite the fact that the matter was noticed as a public hearing, weren’t set to be taken until just after 4 p.m., and only because there were people in the audience that were worried that the heavy storm approaching Northern California will keep them from coming back on Thursday.
A decision on each of the matters could come as soon as today.